As the four year anniversary of my daughter’s death descends upon me, I am becoming an eddy of conflicting emotions. I am at once emboldened by the knowledge that I’ve been through this before, yet find myself once again dangling my feet on the edge of the abyss of grief. All of the progress that I’ve made learning how to balance the conflicting emotions of indescribable pain, pride in being able to function, and joy (yes, even joy), seems precariously fragile.
My family and friends will soon start to notice, if they haven’t already, that I’m once again a bit of a mess. They will look at me, the bereaved mother, and struggle to figure out what to say. Some will try to find words. Some will avoid me, and then breathe a quiet sigh of relief when the date passes and I (at least for a while) pull myself back together.
I understand both options. Ironically, even as a bereaved mother myself I either struggle to find words, or secretly hope for avoidance when I meet another bereaved mom. The reason is because there are no words. Child loss is truly unspeakable.
Any bereaved parent knows that nothing anyone can say will make them feel better. However, there is one thing that matters most, and that is to know that our child is remembered. When you say their name, share a memory, or ask about them, not only do you not make us feel worse (which is what so many think will happen – trust me, you can’t make us feel worse) but instead you give us a precious gift.
Therefore, as I approach yet another anniversary of the day that turned my world upside down, I have thought about what I’d tell my family and friends when they ask me how they can help.
- When you see me, if you knew my daughter, say her name. Share a memory, or just let me know that you think of her or that you remember her.
- If you never knew my daughter, ask me her name. Ask me to show you a picture or share a special memory.
- If you see something that reminds you of her send me a picture. If you read something that makes you think of her send me a link.
- Make a donation in my daughter’s memory. It could be to her named scholarship fund or to any charity of your choice. $5 or $105. The amount doesn’t matter. Every dollar that goes to help someone else in her name means that something good can come from something so bad.
- Almost everyone I’ve met who has lost a child has some type of talisman that connects them to their child. Mine, of course, is the dragonfly. Dragonflies connect me to her in a magical way. When you see one, think of her. I truly believe that when you do, you help me keep her spirit alive, just like Tinkerbell.
When you are with a bereaved mom (or dad), please don’t worry about finding the right words. For anyone traversing the journey that is child loss, words are truly overrated. Just hearing my daughter’s name and knowing she is remembered, however, is priceless.